Aside from sports, Spain has fashion and shopping

Aside from sports, Spain has fashion and shopping
By Walter Ang
November 28, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"If you've been to Spain," said Angela Castaño, Director of National Tourist Office of Spain, "you'll understand why our new tagline is 'I need Spain.'"

"When you experience what Spain has to offer, you'll need its food and wine, need its arts and culture, need its passion and lifestyle, need your visit to last forever."

Castaño visited Manila to invite Filipinos to include Spain in their travel plans. She noted the historical relationship between the two countries and said, "Perhaps some Filipinos see Spain as a 'historical' place and therefore 'old' place. I'm here to let everyone know that, yes, we have historical sites for you to visit, but we are also very cosmopolitan and always exciting!"

Fashion and sports
Just this past year, Spain has been in the sports spotlight with Rafael Nadal winning at Wimbledon, La Roja winning the World Cup, Alberto Contador winning the Tour de France and Barcelona hosting the 2010 European Athletics Championships.

"But we also have fashion and shopping," she said smiling. "There are so many fashion brands that are from Spain such as Mango, Zara, Springfield, Trucco, Manolo Blahnik and many others. From apparel to accessories, from footwear to jewellery and perfumes."

She recommended spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) as the best times to visit because "the weather is nice and you can get better rates for accommodations. But those who want to catch our biggest sales of the year should go in January."

Madrid has a "golden mile" that is "home to the most prestigious Spanish brands alongside world names in luxury fashion" and the "Rastro," a street market in the city center. Barcelona has five kilometers' worth of fashion stores in its Ensanche and El Borne areas.

Castaño announced the Spain tourism office's partnership with Mango. "In the Glorietta and Rockwell branches, a P3,000 purchase will entitle you to a a raffle coupon to win a trip to Spain," she said. The promo runs until Nov 30 for a Dec 7 draw.

Culture and lifestyle
The two largest cities are the thriving capital, Madrid, and the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona.

"Madrid is exciting simply because it is Madrid. There is always something going on," she said. Madrid has the Royal Palace, the Prado Musuem, and Las Ventas, the largest Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Spain, among other tourist spots. The city is also known for its art galleries, shopping and nightlife.

Barcelona features the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, including the Sagrada Familia, recently consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and still undergoing construction since the 1882. This city also has the Picasso Museum and Joan Miro Foundation Gallery. Miro's surrealist work is recognizable as Spain's tourism logo for 25 years now.

But, of course, there are other cities to explore. And in these different cities there are all sorts of festivals year-round that celebrate everything "from wine to wild horses." Performing arts festivals and events cover the gamut: music, opera, jazz, dance, ballet, film, books and theater.

Commerce and industry
Emerging Filipino energy industrialists might want to visit and learn from the world's largest solar thermal energy plant, La Florida, in the northern state of Navarra.

Another interesting city is Bilbao, one of Spain's main industrial centers (shipbuilding and iron and steel production) featuring a 100-year-old transporter bridge. It's a fairly "new" popular tourist destination by virtue of it being the home of the Guggenheim Musuem.

Spain has its origins in the Iberian, Celtiberian, Latin, Visigothic, Roman Catholic, and Islamic cultures and this is reflected in its arts, languages, and, of course, food. The country's different regions have respective signature cuisines.

Ferran Adria, head chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Roses, Costa Brava, is one of Spain's tourism ambassadors for 2011, together with six-time kitesurfing world champion Gisela Pulido, among others.

Gourmet Magazine has dubbed Adria as "the Salvador Dali of the kitchen" and El Bulli has been named best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine. Adria has built a reputation as the father of modern Spanish cuisine and as an experimentalist who crafts unexpected flavors with unconventional ingredients.

Nature and spirituality
"The Philippines has Boracay beach, so I won't mention Spain's beaches anymore," Castaño said laughing. (Though it's worth mentioning that Spain is home to Ibiza, famous for its summer club parties and Café del Mar.)

Spain has more than 300 hectares worth of national parks featuring flora, fauna and vistas not usually seen in places with tropical climates (like the Philippines) such as high-altitude deserts and sub-alpine steppes.

She noted that the Spain tourism office can recommend itineraries that allow visitors to experience a combination of whatever it is that they are looking for, whether it be shopping, nightlife, culture, food or arts, in either urban or rural settings.

Spain boasts one of the greatest collections of historical and architectural monuments in the world. The country has the second highest number of Unesco World Heritage designations in the world.

For those who seek a more spiritual itinerary, there's the pilgrimage "Way of St. James" from the east of Spain to Santiago de Compostela in the west, where the tomb of St. James the Apostle is located. This destination is considered as the world's third biggest Christian pilgrimage site, next to Rome and Jerusalem.

In 2011, Madrid will host World Youth Day, a Catholic event done every two to three years featuring a public appearance by the Pope.

Visit Thai Airways flies from Manila to Spain (Madrid) via Bangkok. For bookings, call 817-5442 or 812-4812.

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